The Dodgers can outspend the Giants, but can they outbananas them? That's the question on the table, apparently, as Zack Greinke's decision might come down to which team is willing to offer a sixth year.
Greinke is 32, you know.
There's precedent for a pitcher in his 30s getting a deal that long. Kevin Brown got an even longer deal from the Dodgers just before turning 34, and for three out of his five years in Los Angeles, he was fantastic. If Greinke were excellent for the first two or three years of a massive six-year contract, he would have to, I don't know, bite a first-round pick on the neck to turn deal into a complete flop. That kind of front-loaded value is exactly what the Giants would think they were paying for.
It's the $32 million for the last three years that would really foul things up. Salaries will go up. The Giants' payroll will go up. The Mission Rock development will be rolling, or close to it. And $32 million will still be a nonsensical amount of money to pay a pitcher, especially if he's broken or ineffective. The Giants would need a lot of help from the farm to fill in the gaps. They might have inflated confidence after the Duffy/Panik success. They might have justified confidence.
Still, six years to a 32-year-old pitcher is, well, unfathomable. The most instructive thing to do might be to look at the 10-most similar pitchers to Greinke according to Baseball-Reference:
Bret Saberhagen was injury-riddled in his 20s, so he isn't a great comp. He had two good seasons after turning 32 and a whole lot of injuries.
John Smoltz blew out his elbow when after his age-32 season, but still gave the Braves some value until a hypothetical six-year deal would have expired. Not $32 FREAKING MILLION kind of value, but value.
Justin Verlander just finished a very solid age-32 season, but his contract still freaks me out, much less one that pays him millions more for a season longer.
Cole Hamels just finished his age-31 season, and he would probably get Greinke-like money this offseason.
Mike Mussina -- something of a badass who should be in the Hall of Fame one day -- struggled for two seasons after turning 35. Still, if he got the Greinke contract, it would have been a steal, as he was worth an average of five wins from 32 through 37.
Bob Welch would have been a bust, even with a 27-win, Cy Young season mixed in. He retired after his age-37 season.
Jack Morris was solid, averaging 2.4 WAR from 32 through 37, and his championship grit was worth even more than that. Still, that would have been a bad deal.
Tom Glavine was awesome, averaging 4.0 WAR, winning a Cy Young, and making three All-Star teams.
Jake Peavy helped the Giants win a championship in 2014, and we are very grateful for that. But as you can see, we're running out of useful comps for a 31-year-old pitcher on a Hall of Fame path, coming off one of his very best seasons.
John Candelaria was injured often before turning 30, so he's a lousy comp, too.
Those are the 10 statistically similar pitchers to Greinke. Two of them would have been worth the deal, two are still active, and six would have made the Giants sad. The two who were good from 32-37 also happen to be the pitchers who seem most similar to Greinke -- command monsters with All-Star appearances, awards, and consecutive 200-inning seasons.
On the other hand, there's this:
One major-league executive said he's hearing the Dodgers may give Zack Greinke six years for $210 million, which would be $35 mil per year.— Mark Feinsand (@FeinsandNYDN) December 2, 2015
WELL, HOW ABOUT THAT. At least the Giants will have hosed the Dodgers. Now they can turn their attention to the pitchers they like on the second tier.
As teams seriously consider Plan Bs to David Price and Zack Greinke: The Giants have long had interest in Jeff Samardzija.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 2, 2015
no no no no
Forget the theory that Jeff Samardzija will be the bargain of the offseason. Teams talking with him say he's claiming to have $100M on table— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) December 2, 2015
NO NO NO NO NO
In conclusion, the Giants should have drafted the best young pitchers in baseball before the other teams in the league did. Is Greinke worth six years? I don't know, man. But if the alternative is Jeff Samardzija at $100 million, it's at least less gross? Maybe?
Sign him and hope for the Glavine or Mussina. Watch the Dodgers dump their best prospects for someone who isn't good. It might not be the best plan, but it's certainly a plan.